Cover image for Fat land : how Americans became the fattest people in the world
Fat land : how Americans became the fattest people in the world
Critser, Greg.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Boston, MA : Houghton Mifflin Co., [2003]

Physical Description:
vii, 232 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
RA645.O23 C75 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
RA645.O23 C75 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
RA645.O23 C75 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
RA645.O23 C75 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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What in American society has changed so dramatically that nearly 60 percent of us are now overweight, plunging the nation into what the surgeon general calls an "epidemic of obesity"? Greg Critser engages every aspect of American life - class, politics, culture, and economics - to show how we have made ourselves the second fattest people on the planet (after South Sea Islanders).

Fat Land highlights the groundbreaking research that implicates cheap fats and sugars as the alarming new metabolic factor making our calories stick and shows how and why children are too often the chief metabolic victims of such foods. No one else writing on fat America takes as hard a line as Critser on the institutionalized lies we've been telling ourselves about how much we can eat and how little we can exercise. His expose of the Los Angeles schools' opening of the nutritional floodgates in the lunchroom and his examination of the political and cultural forces that have set the bar on American fitness low and then lower, are both discerning reporting and impassioned wake-up calls.

Disarmingly funny, Fat Land leaves no diet book - including Dr. Atkins's - unturned. Fashions, both leisure and street, and American-style religion are subject to Critser's gimlet eye as well. Memorably, Fat Land takes on baby-boomer parenting shibboleths - that young children won't eat past the point of being full and that the dinner table isn't the place to talk about food rules - and gives advice many families will use to lose.

Critser's brilliantly drawn futuristic portrait of a Fat America just around the corner and his all too contemporary foray into the diabetes ward of a major children's hospital make Fat Land a chilling but brilliantly rendered portrait of the cost in human lives - many of them very young lives - of America's obesity epidemic.

Author Notes

Greg Critser contributes regularly to USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, and Harper's Magazine. Educated at Occidental College and UCLA, Critser lives in Pasadena, California

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

You reap what you sow. According to Critser, a leading journalist on health and obesity, America about 30 years ago went crazy sowing corn. Determined to satisfy an American public that "wanted what it wanted when it wanted it," agriculture secretary Earl Butz determined to lower American food prices by ending restrictions on trade and growing. The superabundance of cheap corn that resulted inspired Japanese scientists to invent a cheap sweetener called "high fructose corn syrup." This sweetener made food look and taste so great that it soon found its way into everything from bread to soda pop. Researchers ignored the way the stuff seemed to trigger fat storage. In his illuminating first book (which began life as a cover story for Harper's Magazine), Critser details what happened as this river of corn syrup (and cheap, lardlike palm oil) met with a fast-food marketing strategy that prized sales-via supersized "value" meals-over quality or conscience. The surgeon general has declared obesity an epidemic. About 61% of Americans are now overweight-20% of us are obese. Type 2 (i.e., fat-related) diabetes is exploding, even among children. Critser vividly describes the physical suffering that comes from being fat. He shows how the poor become the fattest, victimized above all by the lack of awareness. Critser's book is a good first step in rectifying that. In vivid prose conveying the urgency of the situation, with just the right amount of detail for general readers, Critser tells a story that they won't be able to shake when they pass the soda pop aisle in the supermarket. This book should attract a wide readership. (Jan. 14) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

The book's last line answers the title's implied question. A "new sense of collective will--and individual willpower" are the only means to deliver the US from the two major deadly scourges of its affluent, comfortable, self-indulgent society: obesity and diabetes. Both truly have become devastating epidemics. Gluttony and sloth (overeating and inactivity) may be at the root of the problem, but there are contributing circumstances; and those are the main themes of this must-read revelation. Critser does some excellent reporting, with well-researched documentation and an engaging writing style. He succeeds in letting laypersons grasp agricultural policy, astute marketing ploys, lipid chemistry, human physiology, and the follies of institutional feeding schemes and weight-loss quackery. This book is for everyone, especially parents and all other custodians of children. The major health destroyers are related to eating and exercise. And only behavior modification can control those two, and the earlier the better. Summing Up: Essential. All levels. M. Kroger emeritus, Pennsylvania State University, University Park Campus

Library Journal Review

Childhood obesity, diabetes, and related illnesses are becoming major health problems in America. Nutrition journalist Critser presents a critical analysis of the many social and economic factors that make Americans, contrary to the book's subtitle, the second-fattest people in the world (the South Sea Islanders are fatter). He blames parents' reluctance to monitor their children's eating habits; the marketing tactics of fast-food companies, which influence us to overeat; the preponderance of fad diets; the phasing out of physical education programs in schools; and the sale of fast foods at schools to save money on dining facilities. Lower-income families have higher rates of obesity regardless of race, ethnicity, and gender, which the author attributes to lack of information about diet and exercise and the wide diversity of cultural beliefs about weight, body size, and self-esteem. Critser urges Americans to tackle obesity head on, concluding with descriptions of initiatives that worked when communities launched a cooperative effort to change their eating habits and avoid the path to lifelong obesity. An important work that belongs in all nutrition and public health collections. [See also Robert Pool's excellent Fat: Fighting the Obesity Epidemic and Eric Schlosser's scathing Fast Food Nation.-Ed.]-Irwin Weintraub, Brooklyn Coll. Lib., New York (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



INTRODUCTION Obesity is the dominant unmet global health issue, with Western countries topping the list. - World Health OrganizationSet the soul of thy son aright, and all the rest will be added hereafter! - Saint John ChrysostomThis book is not a memoir, but it is undeniably grounded in a singular personal experience. My experience was not, for those hoping for something juicy, a moment of childhood drama. Nor was it anything that led to any form of spiritual or true psychological revelation. Compared to the harrowing tribulations that so much of the worlds population endures, it was, when all is said and done, rather mundane and petty. Here it is: Some guy called me fatso. Specifically, he screamed: "Watch it, fatso!" Here I should note that I deserved the abuse; after all, I had opened my car door into a busy street without looking into my side mirror first, and so had nearly decapitated the poor fellow. I could have killed him. But why... fatso? Could it be because I was indeed forty pounds overweight? Or that I could not fit into any of my clothes, even the ones I got at the Gap that were labeled "relaxed" (which, come to think of it, I wasnt), let alone the ones considered "baggy" (which, again come to think of it, I was)? Could it be because I had to back up ten feet so as to get my entire face into the bathroom mirror to shave every morning? Or that when I dined with friends they hid their small pets and seemed to guard their plates, one arm curled around them, as if I might plunge my fork into their juicy pieces of duck and make off with them? Im obviously joking about the latter, but the point is that the insult hit home. In upwardly mobile, professional America, being fat - and having someone actually notice it and say something about it - is almost as bad as getting caught reading Playboy in your parents bedroom when youre ten. Shame shame shame. Fatness was hardly a new issue for me. My wife and my physician had been after me for some time to do something about my problem, the former quite gingerly, the latter not so. My doctor, in fact, had recently suggested that I consider a new weight loss medication. At the time, I had promptly brushed the idea aside. Now, the sting still fresh, I reconsidered: Why not? And so, for the next nine months, I put all of my extra energy into the task of shedding my excess avoirdupois. In modern America, this, I would find, was a rite in itself, replete with its own social institutions (health clubs), tonics (Meridia), taboos (Krispy Kreme), and aspirational totems (Levis 501 regular cuts). I was apparently ready for this rite, for, to my delight, I slowly but surely lost the weight. What followed was encouraging, if somewhat predictable: congratulations from friends for "sticking to it"; enhanced self-esteem; a new wardrobe; a newfound confidence and spring in my step; phone calls from J.Lo. and Julia. Yet the more I contemplated my success, the more I came to see it Excerpted from Fat Land: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World by Greg Critser All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgementsp. vi
Introductionp. 1
1. Up Up Up! (Or, Where the Calories Came From)p. 7
2. Supersize Me (Who Got the Calories into Our Bellies)p. 20
3. World Without Boundaries (Who Let the Calories In)p. 30
4. Why the Calories Stayed on Our Bodiesp. 63
5. What Fat Is, What Fat Isn'tp. 109
6. What the Extra Calories Do to Youp. 127
7. What Can Be Donep. 155
Appendix Fat Land Factsp. 179
Notesp. 185
Indexp. 223